- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2001

It hardly seems possible, but area hunting seasons are just around the corner. Dove and resident goose shooting started two weeks ago, but we're talking about the kind of hunting that goes with frosty mornings, falling leaves and even fresh layers of snow.
So have you sighted in your bow or firearm? Have you maintained good relations with the landowner on whom you depended last year when you loaded your freezer shelves with venison, cottontail rabbits or squirrels?
In the case of hunters looking toward public lands, have you scouted for likely deer and turkey terrain in the mountain counties of Virginia and Maryland? If not, you better get going. Use your outing to tone up hitherto unused muscles. You'll need them when the horn of the hunter blows in October and November.
Recreational hunters in the Washington area are fortunate in several respects. To begin with, there are tens of thousands of public hunting acres found from the westernmost county in Maryland, Garrett, to southwestern Virginia's huge Jefferson National Forest, as well as open-to-the-public waterfowl hunting spots from Virginia's lower Chesapeake Bay up to Maryland's Eastern Shore and dozens of western bay rivers where blind sites are permitted.
Generally, the news is good. Deer numbers continue to increase in some counties, but some stabilization of the whitetailed herds also is noted. For example, don't expect to be overrun with deer in the mountain counties of Maryland, although your chances for venison are good from Frederick to Allegany and into Garrett counties.
The same holds for counties west of Virginia's Blue Ridge, where deer hunting seasons are not usually as generous as areas east of the mountains. Western areas don't have the tremendous numbers of whitetails that are found in the farm belts of the eastern and central parts of either state.
However, mountain lands are superb producers of wild turkeys, and ever-increasing numbers of hunters bring home one of the magnificent birds in either state. Sadly, the same high-country forests that are so attractive to turkeys should also yield ruffed grouse, but this bird's numbers are not great even if biologists talk optimistically about resurgent grouse populations.
The best news among waterfowl hunters of the two Middle Atlantic states is the opening of a new season for migratory Canada geese in Maryland and the continuation of a yearly goose hunt in Virginia. The big Canadas are doing quite well and game managers will permit the removal of some but certainly not the numbers of days gone by.
There's good news also for hunters, who are expected to receive visits from migratory ducks in good, even excellent numbers. For example, Maryland, which has been careful not to overdo the shooting of certain duck species, this year has asked the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to approve a Dec. 28 to Jan. 19 canvasback duck hunting season. It has been greeted with joy by Southern Marylanders, in particular, because parts of the Potomac and Patuxent rivers in recent winters have seen steady arrivals of the powerful ducks, whose elongated heads seem to blend into their bills without interruption.
Squirrels and cottontail rabbits, two species that are all-time favorites for young and old, are in good supply again this year. Sure, there will be some spots in mountain or low-country lands where either species will not be as readily available, but overall the hunting for them will be rewarding.
West Virginians enjoy hunting so much that the state now will permit Sunday hunting, nothing new to western U.S. states but a bombshell for eastern jurisdictions, where churches and legislators frequently have joined forces to squash attempts at Sunday hunting.

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